The Cost of Freedom

freedom

I wrote the following immediately after the U.S. elections. It’s not so much a reaction to the results as it is a meditation on the bigger picture, on what’s behind those results.

My country is surrendering its freedom. The erosion of values grounded in the teachings of Jesus (the two-sided coin of freedom and responsibility) has left an ideological vacuum that extremists are anxious to fill.

Two big-personalities entered the presidential race last year. On the surface they appeared to be at opposite ends of the spectrum: One, a feisty Jewish grandpa, represented the protective pull of socialism, the other, a larger-than-life blusterer, represented the reflexive response of nationalism. But what they had in common was that each brought with him a ready-made ideology to fill that abhorrent vacuum. The grandpa was set aside to make room for a more mainstream former president’s wife, but her support from disparate minorities lacked the zeal to drive her to the finish line. So the blusterer shot through as the last-hope champion of the middle class, the one who would save “us” from “them.”

But the political spectrum isn’t a line that runs from left to right. It’s a wheel. And the two most extreme candidates conjoin at a spot called authoritarianism. In the new ideology-free America, the call is no longer for “someone who stands for what we believe in” but “someone who will tell us what to believe in.” It’s no longer government “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” but government of, by, and for The Leader. What Leader? Any authoritarian narcissist who can give us what we want.

Namely security.

Are we the next Weimar Republic, the weak, loosely-confederated democracy that ruled Germany after World War I? Have we, like they, appointed as Chancellor a demagogue who will concentrate more and more power in himself, egged on by a slap-happy middle class? Or is he too weak and cartoonish a Leader to pull that off? Will he and the current majority fail to produce the “great” America they promised, resulting in a lurch in the opposite direction? Will the grandpa, or some other paternalistic figure, usher in a socialist version of authoritarianism that demands an equal surrender of freedom and responsibility?

handcuffs73Freedom and responsibility. The two words are inseparable—the latter secures the former. And then there’s that word “secures” again. As soon as We the People allow someone other than ourselves to make us secure, we surrender our responsibility. And as soon as we surrender our responsibility…

we surrender our freedom.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Quips and Quotes and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The Cost of Freedom

  1. William Hill says:

    Well said, well wrote! Your question, “Are we the next Weirmar Republic?” echos my post, “Demagogues and Democracy – The Rise of One and the Fall of the Other” (Oct 19th) – you and I apparently share the same overall concern. I pray we both be proven wrong. But if our democracy (and all others) are to devolve into authoritarianism, I’d personally rather it be benevolent socialism than narcissist self-aggrandizement. But that’s grist for another discussion.

    Liked by 5 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      “Benevolent socialism” sounds like some of the more modest economic bogs in recent European history. Unfortunately socialism is just as prone, I think, to demagoguery, and not so benevolent in the hands of a Stalin. Enjoyed your article!

      Like

      • William Hill says:

        Of course you’re right about Stalin, and that no political system is immune from demagogues. But Communism is the proven unworkable extreme of Socialism as an economic system. The Socialism I refer to is more like that practiced in the highly successful and vibrant Scandinavian countries (Denmark and Norway, for example), which are just as democratic and capitalistic as we are, but where people’s needs – education, health and medical care, infrastructure and the like – have priority over corporate greed to amass the nation’s wealth for themselves, creating haves and have nots. Those democratic-socialist countries better reflect Christ’s compassionate message of seeing to one’s brother’s needs than does the US (despite our belief we’re a Christian nation). Laissez faire capitalism is just as evil as communism, they are the two extremes of the economic spectrum, both result in societal collapse. In the middle is democratic-socialism; it’s just to what degree the individual is willing to forego his own wants for the needs of the many.

        Liked by 3 people

    • mitchteemley says:

      Yet democratic socialism seems to have produced poor results in so many countries. I question whether Scandinavian-style socialism could fly in the U.S. The dynamics are different here, not the least of which is the fact that we’re a vastly larger collection of semi-independent states. Laissez faire capitalism seems to me to be more of a mixed bag. Certainly government regulation is needed–and could be much better than it is–but direct government involvement can be disastrous too. I spoke at length once with a man who’d spent his career working for the Government Accountability Office. He had zero respect for government-run institutions, saying that, in comparison to the private sector, their effectiveness level was laughably poor.

      Like

  2. “The erosion of values grounded in the teachings of Jesus (the two-sided coin of freedom and responsibility) has left an ideological vacuum that extremists are anxious to fill.”

    Yes,amen! So really the only way to protect ourselves is to revive those values grounded in the teachings of Jesus. That’s our armor against extremism. I suspect (and I pray) that there are enough of us defiant Americans still roaming about that makes trying to place us under authoritarianism too much like herding cats.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. John S says:

    Thanks Mitch 

    Liked by 1 person

  4. ronbrownx says:

    One of the most sensible sentiments I’ve heard since Tuesday!
    Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 3 people

  5. “The erosion of values grounded in the teachings of Jesus (the two-sided coin of freedom and responsibility) has left an ideological vacuum that extremists are anxious to fill.” I don’t know what God will do with the USA in the months and years to come. I do know that He does not owe it to us to make us “great” again. Whatever He does in all the circumstances which unfold, it is my intent to adhere to the values grounded in the teachings of my Lord Jesus; and I am praying for all those who confess His Lordship to do the same–more and more, as the world system is exposed for what it truly is. I think the crisis lies in knowing what the commitment to Christ looks like against the backdrop of collapse in what will pass away. St. Paul’s letter to us via the letter to the Philippians resonates strongly in my heart these days…Blessings to you, brother Mitch.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. spudbudette says:

    Oh, I hope this does not turn out to be prophetical but certainly see fertile ground for it to be so.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. nancyehead says:

    You speak the truth. Preach it!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. BelleUnruh says:

    The Democrats share a large part of the blame in losing this election. Instead of helping thousands of people who lost jobs because of NAFTA, they ignored those people. People who used to have a good-paying job are now working 2 or 3 low-paying jobs and still don’t have enough.

    Food stamps were cut. Obama Care came in which is $250 per person per household. Where were people supposed to come up with that money? And now the premiums are costing more. I know someone who was living on disability and they automatically took the Obama Care out of her check. She couldn’t pay her rent and has been living in her car. I know someone from Georgia who had a full-time job but still couldn’t afford a place of her own so she lived in a broken-down shack on her family’s property.

    People who have a college/university degree have no understanding of what it is to be poor. Even if the payments were $250 a month for the whole family, that translates to paying the heating bill or buying groceries. The Democrats don’t seem to understand or care about the poor any longer. The Republicans never have. That is why Trump was elected.

    Have you ever seen a newspaper article on how the United States is sending so many billions to other countries? When I read that I think, “They can send money all over the world and have expensive wars every year and yet their own people suffer year after year.” That is what I think. Both parties deserved to lose and they did.

    Trump is a vile man. He needs God in his life. He is full of pride, so it will take a lot of work for God to reach him, if he ever does. But if he helps the poor in America, I will be glad he was elected.

    Liked by 2 people

    • William Hill says:

      Everthing you said is true, I feel your heartfelt angst, and just want you know I also share your pain. “Obama Care”, like so many other things – the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare, Veterans Administration, and so much more – would be solvent and working well, just as they were originally intended, had the various (and current) Congress’ not interfered with them or fully funded them. In each instance, Congress has either robbed them every year to pay for something else, or has forbidden them to adopt policies to make them competitive with the private sector (read: “Corporate America”, Big Business). Every year, the Post Office makes a profit; every year Congress refuses to reimburse them (which they promise to do) for the postage due for all their mailings and, in addition, to the $5+ million Congress bills them every year for “future” retiree’s health insurance (something they don’t do to any other agency), or allowing them to purchase and use their own airplanes like UPS or FedEx, instead telling them to use commercial airlines (who are Congressionally allowed to refused to carry mail), all forcing the USPS into the red every year and the need to raise the price of stamps. Medicare: Congress bows to Big Phram and forbids Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices. Social Security: it would have more than enough money to fund it for 100 year if Congress hadn’t annually “borrowed” its revenue to pay for other things. Obama Care: Increasing policy premiums, decreassed coverage, insurance companies pulling out – all because private insurance companies aren’t making the profits they want, a problem that wouldn’t exist with a single-payer system. Blame the Democrats, blame the Republicans. But don’t forget to blame you and me – ultimately, as “government by the people” means, if we don’t elect representives who aren’t in the pockets of special interests, there is no one to blame but ourselves. And, yes, Trump is a vile man. If God ever blessed America, may he do so again. Soon.

      Liked by 2 people

      • William Hill says:

        Sorry, when I said “5+ million”, I meant to say, 5+Billion!

        Like

      • BelleUnruh says:

        But how do we elect politicians who aren’t in the pockets of special interests? We could throw our vote away on a third party, but what good does it do? I don’t think most Republican voters of the past actually understood how they were being taken down the primrose path by their party. I guess they see it now. Actually, I think part of the reason Trump was elected was because he isn’t in anyone’s pocket.

        I don’t actually think it is the voter’s fault for the crappy things congress does. Maybe if they put all these decisions to a public vote, things would be different. “Should Congress pay their postal bill? Yes/No If we all voted “No” then it’s our fault. I know Congress has blocked a lot of things President Obama wanted to do. Republican politicians have become more and more evil. They care nothing for people. They kill them for their wars to make money! Unbelievable. All that war in Iraq was about was money. Good old Dick Cheney still has refineries there! Death and destruction of people’s lives for money they don’t even need. I abhor Republican politicians. I am sorry for our poor country.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. aresonantone says:

    Goodness! Quit enticing my political side out with your good posts.

    We are going to suffer much of the same fate as the Weimar Republic if we fall to some of the same things that they were subject to. Now, economically, yes, there is no avoiding the crash that even now I am convinced is being planned as the global elitist plot their revenge on Trump. If he would have lost, I think it would have only been delayed by a little, for as I am fond giving a Dave Ramsey quote “Nobody is immune to math.” The last time we had such drastic inflation of the money supply was under Jimmy Carter, and he only inflated it 13% which after all the damage of his administration had come to conclusion gave us 130% inflation. I lost track in 2014 when the estimates were Obama inflated the money supply over 1300%.

    You can do the math from there.

    Freedom and responsibility are tied concepts, but they are not mutually exclusive. If you rely on anyone else to protect your rights, you cede a little bit of your freedom. It is the duty of any society founded on liberty to be ever vigilant that no one takes it away in small bites or big chunks. As we often hear around veteran’s day “Freedom isn’t free”.

    Lastly, I really wanted to vote Libertarian, but faced what I saw as an existential threat to my nation in the form of Hillary Clinton. Many of my Libertarian friends were not swayed by this saying they were voting on principle. Good for them. I was as well, so that next election they will continue to be able to do so. I would have respected Bernie Sanders as a candidate because I knew, although I felt him fundamentally wrong on his view of the issues, he came to them honestly and was generally not a corrupt person.

    But the biggest reason that stops me from voting libertarian (outside the afformentioned) is that I believe that Libertarianism is only possible in a moral society. Something that you are absolutely right about in that we are in a moral and ethical decline of such dramatic caliber, a complete change of direction is required where the Church and Christians must step up and demand it be changed, even from a flawed candidate and imperfect instrument of God’s will in the form of Donald Trump. I know that’s a lot of personal projection onto his real goals, but I am a flawed person too.

    Ultimately, our founders gave us two statements that I consistently consider:

    When Benjamin Franklin was asked by an onlooker about the founding of the United States he was asked:
    “What kind of a government have you given us, doctor? A republic? A monarchy?”

    To which he answered:

    “A republic… if you can keep it.”

    And of course this hoary old chestnut:

    “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

    God Bless America, and thank you for the post, Mr. Teemley.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. William Hill says:

    Point to consider: When one speaks of inflation, one is speaking about money. The President does not – can not – spent so much as a penny. All monies spent in the exercise of government is appropriated by Congress. If you are unhappy about our debt, blame your congressmen and senators. Let them know that you are against their spending for anything they are unwilling to raise taxes to pay for – be it individual welfare, corporate bail-outs, or war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • aresonantone says:

      And I absolutely do, but the administration pressures the Federal Reserve, and appoints it’s director with the advice and consent of the congress, and therefore bears some of the brunt. Just like the CEO of British Petroleum was ultimately responsible for Deepwater Horizon though he never touched a bolt or signed an inspection report, the president gets the blame as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • William Hill says:

        Consider: your minor child does something wrong. As the parent, you are responsible. But if your child is an adult, do you bare responsibility? No. Oh, the neighbors might gossip about your parenting skills, but you have no control over your adult child. With respect to the Federal Reserve, the President appoints its governors, whose terms span across multiple presidential and Congressional terms. But the Reserve itself – is composed of the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, numerous private banks and various advisory councils that are independent of the government, receives no funding by the government, and its decisions do not need approval by the President or Congress. If the Reserve makes a bad decision, is it the Presidents fault? No. Is it Congress’ fault? No. But it’s human nature to place blame somewhere, isn’t it. We all need a Judas. Is it right and fair to blame the President? No, no more than it is to blame the parent of a grown child for their mistake. We need to place the blame where it belongs. If the Reserve errs unforgivably, let the Congress act. If Congress fails to, blame them.

        Like

      • aresonantone says:

        I respectfully disagree and decline to argue on Mr. Teemley’s blog. This is not the place for it.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. William Hill says:

    It was only my attempt to discuss, point-counterpoint, in the classic style of dialogue, to discern fact versus opinion, and to arrive at an amicable agreement or settlement. However, my apologies to you and Mr. Teemley if you believe it was mere argument. I will withdraw.

    Like

  12. H.M. Davis says:

    I love your reference to Der Furher’s rise to power. I have had that in mind, too, especially after reading ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” There are distinct differences, of course, but I think the overarching idea of “It couldn’t possible happen again,” puts us in a place of danger. However, my hope is not in this government nor any other, but in the King of kings! I agree wholeheartedly that “if we surrender our responsibility, we surrender our freedom.” Still, no matter what I can I thank my Lord that even if I ever endure a loss of political, social, or economic freedom, I am still free. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Nancy Ruegg says:

    A sobering and thought-provoking post, Mitch. Based on a couple of things our pastor said a few weeks ago, I’m thinking: What if America cannot be made great again, because we’ve veered too far from the Christian values that made our country great in the first place? What then? We can still stand firm in our faith because the King of kings is in control and always will be. His main concern is not that we live in a Christian nation but that we live in his spiritual kingdom. In fact, the church has strengthened and grown most profoundly during times of difficulty and persecution.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. godoratheism says:

    Thank you, Mitch. Very few people understand or are familiar with this concept. When a nation, in the name of unrestrained freedom, turns its back on morality and shuns personal responsibility, it is a matter of time before they elect authoritarian leaders who will think for them and take care of them. The next small step leads to a totalitarian state where freedom, rights, and liberty are taken away.
    There is only one source of true freedom–Jesus Christ. The Bible says in John 8: 36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

    Liked by 1 person

  15. smzang says:

    Informed commentary such as this and the ensuing discussion
    are both encouraging and uplifting.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. ekurie says:

    Perhaps collectively, but personally? I will always stand for the freedom found in and gifted by the grace of Jesus Christ. Thanks for visiting my blog, too!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s